Thursday, March 30, 2006
Read the utility bill printed with this article and weep. Dated 1907, Mr. Eagleton M. Smith is charged just $1.35 for lights in the month of July 1907. Eagleton and Lucy Deaderick Smith lived in the home now owned by Mrs. Bert Bonds at Craft and Chulahoma. Mr. Smith was an elder in the Presbyterian church. Mrs. Smith was artistic, and important in the cultural life of the town during her era. She was organist of the Presbyterian church. The bill is signed by Mr. W. A. Anderson, first teacher of our city’s public school and longtime city clerk of Holly Springs.
It is fun to smile at prices from the long ago, but incomes were lower. You have to do the math to see what the relative differences are.
For example, the Presbyterian minister, who lived across the street from the Smiths was paid a salary of $1,200, per year — not counting free use of the manse.
(By the way, in looking up this number, I noticed that the congregational vote to call the minister in question was 34-4 — so much for those huge church attendance numbers some people remember in “old” Holly Springs! People’s habits do not change so much as is sometimes alleged.)
Times were hard, the streets were not paved, and cotton was stacked around the courthouse square every fall. But all was not austerity and pain. In 1905, Dr. T. W. Raymond, president of the local Presbyterian College, brought John Philip Sousa’s band to Holly Springs about 1905 for a concert in the Masonic Hall where Mark Miller’s and Buford’s stores are now, at $1 a seat, and came out on it.
Proportionality is the thing. In 1838, the old Presbyterian church at Hudsonville, took a collection for the purposes of education. It amounted to $20. The church paid $5 per year for fuel to heat the church. The pastor was paid $290 per year, a sum to which the Rev. Daniel Grey contributed $10 of his own money.
By 1874 costs had escalated. The Holly Springs Presbyterians published an annual church circular, among which are these figures for various causes supported by the church:
Of course, a furnace in those days was well worth the expense. When the present Christ Church opened its doors in 1858 it was the only church in town to have a hot-air furnace. That, along with the only pipe organ in the vicinity, surely helps account for the great increase in membership that occurred among the parish in that era.
I have a note from the elders of our church to the deacons in 1895 stating that “on Saturdays if the mercury records below 30 degrees, the deacons were to heat the church to at least “fifty degrees” or else the Sunday service was to be held downstairs. With prices as they are, we may have to do the same thing.
There was a gracious courtesy toward those who could not pay. I recall a note from Mr. Anderson about this time to one of the city’s elderly citizens, written as one would pen a social letter. On the stationery of the city hall, it said, “My Dear Mrs. ___, This note comes wishing you every improvement in health and prosperity, and while not wishing to cause you trouble of body or burden of spirit, we will be ever so grateful if the first time you find it convenient, you could remit to us fifty cents for use of water from the city’s pipelines. Ever truly yours, W. A. Anderson, City Clerk.”
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